Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Furry leg warmers and rambling jams: An afternoon at Euphoria Fest

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published April 28, 2014

I dropped by Euphoria Festival at Carson Creek Ranch for a couple hours on Saturday afternoon. It was quiet when I showed up, but crowds were starting to flow in and the parking lot was looking full as the sun started to dip down. The crowd was predictably young, but the vibe was laid back and easygoing. I wouldn’t call it a diverse crowd but I saw more brown people walking around before the party kicked in than I’ve seen in some entire years at ACL Fest (really).

I ran into fest founder Mitch Morales on the way out. He said there was a line to get into camping at 8 a.m. on Friday then crowds were light during the day but by the end of the night upwards of 3500 paid attendees were out. He predicted at least as many would show up for Saturday’s bill which included sets from Crystal Method, Gareth Emery and Lotus.

I wasn’t at the fest long enough to write any sort of comprehensive review, but here are a few observations.

Keeping it weird. One man “phunk” band Henry and the Invisibles from Austin played to a low-key crowd in the unEarth tent. He did a truly bizarre number with a shiny silver alien puppet on one hand then kicked into some legitimately funky grooves. No idea if the alien thing is part of his regular act or if he was being deliberately trippy for the sake of Euphoria.

Carson Creek Ranch is beautiful. Yes, there was a weird scent in the air (eau de livestock?) and it was crazy dusty, but the idyllic hideaway on the banks of the Colorado River is a beautiful location. Ten minutes from East Central Austin, it feels like a different world. A fantastic place to escape.

Opening minds. A late-afternoon Source Frequency workshop led by Miguel Angel packed the geodesic dome. About 25-30 young people lounged on pillows on the ground or sat attentively on blankets and folding chairs as Angel talked about tapping into natural engeries to guide your life.

No drugs, bro. When I talked to festival organizer Mitch Morales, he said that signs declaring the festival’s strict no drugs policy were posted throughout the venue. I didn’t see any, but the bag check to enter the fest was the most thorough I’ve ever been through. The guy behind me got busted. After the woman doing the bag check confiscated contraband, her colleague remarked to the unfortunate fest-goer, “If you’ve got anything else in there, you might as well tell us, because she’s gonna find it.” Walking away from the gate a woman remarked that they had actually opened up her chapstick to make sure she wasn’t hiding anything in the tube.

Festival fashion. I figured the hula hoop would be the most coveted accessory for Euphoria Fest and I was halfway right. Brightly covered furry leg warmers were everywhere, most frequently paired with a bikini and the afore-mentioned hula hoop.

The rickety bridge between Coltrane and Phish. I’m not a big fan of jam bands. At all. But a couple years ago when Phish played ACL Festival a colleague who did a stint following the band back in the ’90s said that the kings of improvisational noodle rock had a mind-opening effect on him. Somewhere in all that instrumental rambling was a gateway to artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Listening to the Boulder-based Eminence Ensemble I got it. While I couldn’t fully relate to the band’s brand of progressive rock, I could hear the roots of jazz and even classic R&B in there. And honestly, anything that’s presenting young people with an alternative to the auto-tuned pop and formulaic rock that dominates commercial radio is all right with me. The few electronic acts I heard fell into the hard bass, electro beats category that’s not my favorite EDM subgenre, but I had to cut out before crazy talented British producer and multi-instrumentalist Bonobo did his DJ set.